Mobile Tweeting – don’t get caught out

Well, we had a nasty shock at Silicon Bullet yesterday. We moved phone contracts in August from O2 to Orange due to signal problems in our offices, and got lovely Samsung Galaxy S2 phones on contract.

We have a 800Mb monthly download limit, and over the first 3 months this has been more than adequate for our mobile download needs, as we use Wifi wherever available.

Then yesterday a bill for almost £400 plopped onto our mat. Normally the bill is around £70 per month and we are well within our limits.

So the first question is, if Orange monitor our usage (which they do in order to bill us) how can they not even have the courtesy to flag up a sudden jump in usage in a timely way so we don’t get hit with a huge bill? A simple text to flag there may be a problem is all it needs; it can’t be rocket science. Or is this how they make their money?

Secondly, how has our data usage changed in order to suddenly attract this huge bill? The first step was to look at the online data usage to see when the peak times were. They seem to be on occasions when I was driving and not actively using the phone – I can pick this up accurately as I know when the school run is. It must therefore be an app downloading data when the phone is not actively being used.

We have now installed a handy app on our phones which monitors downloads so we can pick out the culprits, and first indications are HootSuite (which I use to monitor my @SiliconBullet twitter account) and Tweetdeck (where I manage @weebly_one – my personal twitter account). These have downloaded huge amounts of data just in the 16 hours since we installed the new App. I fear I may have to give up mobile tweeting if this trend continues. surprisingly the Facebook and Foursquare apps I use have not got such heavy usage at all.

The fact remains though that I have been using Tweetdeck for ages, and it is only this month that we blew our limit out of the water – so we do need to investigate further – I will keep you updated.

The moral of this story is if you have a download limit, then monitor it – the apps for doing this are free, and you can record your monthly allowance in them so you can see what is going on and when you are nearing your limit. It is definitely worth the time and effort to prevent you being hit with a huge bill like we have. Also, encourage your mobile operator to take responsibility; they get enough of our money to be able to manage a system where sudden changes in usage should flag a warning to the end-user while they can still do something about it.